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Hormones dictate breeding success in birds
Date:1/26/2011

Some animals produce more offspring than others do. Hormones like prolactin and corticosterone can exercise a crucial influence on the behaviour of birds in the breeding season and therefore on their reproductive success. Scientists from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology in Radolfzell and their colleagues at the universities of Princeton and Edinburgh have now demonstrated that hormone levels not only play a key role during the breeding season, but already dictate, long in advance, how many eggs a breeding pair will lay, when they will lay them and how often. An animal's hormonal constitution is thus of major significance for its reproductive success, and is possibly an important driving force of evolution. (Proceedings of the Royal Society B, January 19, 2011)

Considerable variance can be observed in the numbers of offspring produced by the members of bird species. Moreover, different individuals within a species embark on the mating and breeding processes at different times. Hormones, the minute messenger molecules that have significant effects on organisms, can assume an important control function in these processes. For example, the concentration of corticosterone increases slightly when an animal is very active, as during brood care. When the bird is exposed to sudden danger and significant stress as a result, its levels rise significantly. In this situation, functions that are not important for survival, for example reproduction, may be suppressed. In contrast, the hormone prolactin stimulates the birds to invest more in reproduction; it controls the number of eggs per clutch and the intensity of brood care.

Together with their colleagues at the University of Edinburgh, Jenny Ouyang from the Princeton University and Michaela Hau from the Max Planck Institute for Ornithology examined how hormone concentrations in individual wild house sparrows (Passer domesticus) before and after the breeding season correlate with reproduc
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Contact: Jenny Ouyang
jqouyang@gmail.com
805-703-01712
Max-Planck-Gesellschaft
Source:Eurekalert  

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